Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buying A Suit 101: Caleb Gardner

I asked Caleb to help me with a suit buying post because after being asked by no less than 3 men in the last few months to help find a suit I realized that you guys out there need some guidance. Hope this helps!

Caleb Gardner is a marketing and social media consultant, clotheshorse, and family man. He calls Chicago home. The Exceptional Man is his idea of trying to help.

Buying a good suit is something akin to purchasing a work of art. You can no more tell a man exactly what kind of suit he should get than you can tell him exactly what he should be hanging from his walls. There are too many styles and genres from which to choose, and every man’s preferences will be different.

However with the right training and a keen sense of style, you can tell good art from the stuff hanging in the Holiday Inn. Similarly you can tell the difference between a man wearing a suit and the suit wearing the man.

First and foremost, it’s a matter of choice. Fabric, cut, lapels, vents – these are all decisions that need to be made. Since suggesting what you should buy depends on a number of factors, from body shape to the occasion, it’s difficult to make specific suggestions as to which suit is right for you. Owning your own shape and your own style will go a long way to figuring out what you can pull off.

So in general, I’m going to go ahead and suggest that, especially if this is your first suit, you should be buying a single-breasted, two-button wool suit with notch lapels and a center vent in the jacket. This should serve you well at most occasions and through most seasons. If you’re a slimmer gentleman you can take a look at a European cut; otherwise stick with the classic American. But no matter what you decide to go with, the most important thing to remember is what I would urge you to keep in mind with your entire wardrobe: fit.

Especially if you’re not familiar with your jacket size, try them on in ever decreasing sizes until you find the one that’s obviously too small for you – then get the next one up. Make sure your shoulders are being hugged, and there are no protruding shoulder pads. You shouldn’t be able to fit more than a fist’s worth of space between your jacket and your body, but should be able to button without straining. Your pants should only have a slight break, and should fit comfortably around the waist.

[Side note : the sales guy is not always your friend. He’s looking to make a sale, not make you look good. Know what you are looking for, and then stick to it.]

Then comes the ever important final step: tailoring. If the place your buying your suit from doesn’t have an in-house tailor (or you don’t trust theirs for some reason), take your new purchase to someone reputable. Tell them you want a quarter inch of shirt cuff to show on your sleeves, and if necessary have him alter your pants or take in your jacket. Remember: he’s not a miracle worker, so do everything in your power to get it right out of the store. Under no circumstances should a tailor attempt to reduce shoulder pads or alter a waistline any more than one inch either way.

I hope this simple guide will be a good starting off point for you. If you need any more specific advice for your situation, don’t hesitate to send me an email. I’d love to help you find your work of art.


Blogger Royce said...

Hey how come Harold from Harold and Kumar is rocking a suit and umbrella in the photo here? (He's also in Flash Forward which I just started watching and quite enjoy.)

This is great advice from Caleb but even thusly armed with knowledge, I do not feel nearly well enough equipped to stroll into my local Men's Wearhouse and pick out a suit. Even with the sales guy's help. I recently bought two jackets which I've never worn and I don't want to spend my money on a "work of art" that's not really good, you know? I'm nervous of making a suit mistake

October 27, 2009 at 11:00 AM  

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